November freight shipments and expenditures were mixed, according to the most recent edition of the Cass Freight Index, which issued this week by Cass Information Systems.
Many freight transportation and logistics executives and analysts consider the Cass Freight Index to be the most accurate barometer of freight volumes and market conditions, with many analysts noting that the Cass Freight Index sometimes leads the American Trucking Associations (ATA) tonnage index at turning points, which lends to the value of the Cass Freight Index.
November’s shipment reading—at 1.201—was down 0.4% annually, falling short of the 2.9% and 4.8% annual gains seen in October and September, respectively. It also trailed August’s 1.278 reading, which marked the highest level for shipments since May 2018. On a two-year stacked change basis, November shipments are down 1.9% and were down 1.9% and 0.5% on a month-to-month and month-to-month seasonally adjusted (SA) basis, respectively.
“After some noise in recent months related to comparisons and other temporary factors like repositioning mistimed inventory, and consumers getting ahead of rising interest rates, freight volumes settled back to a flattish level in November versus a year ago,” wrote the report’s author Tim Denoyer, ACT Research vice president and senior analyst.
Denoyer added that it remains a very stable environment overall, with the caveat that there are still many headwinds, specifically sharpening declines in imports, into the West Coast in particular, which suggest near-term trends could soften further. And he also noted that normal seasonality from here would have shipments down 5% annually in December and about flat for the year.
November expenditures—at 4.476—increased 4.7%, below October’s 11.1% annual increase and was up 50.7% on a two-year stacked change basis. Expenditures were up 3.7% and 4.4%, respectively, on a month-to-month change and month-to-month change SA basis.
“Expenditures rose 1.8% m/m after a 4.9% drop in October,” observed Denoyer. “Against a shipment decline of 1.9% m/m in November, we can infer that rates overall were up 3.7%. The increase in rates m/m appears mainly due to changes in modal mix.”